My new Japanese girlfriend and I were driving up a winding, narrow Japanese forest road surrounded by old pines and deciduous trees just North of Kyoto, Japan. It was my favorite part of an autumn day — the hour of the monkey1, just around sunset. She was not from Kyoto so I was taking her up to see some beautiful temple grounds. We had only known each other for three weeks and she already thought it odd that her gaijin2 boyfriend was taking her to a Buddhist temple.
As we drove I was marveling at the forest colors and said to her, “I love how the hour of the monkey unveils our hypnotism”. She laughed and said, “What?” thinking I meant to say something else in Japanese. So I elaborated my cryptic statement and said, “For example: What color are those trees over there?” She replied, “Green!”
“And those trees over there,” I quickly repeated. “Green” again was her reflexive answer. So I explained, “But really, since it is slightly dark on this side of the mountain, these trees are actually gray while those on the dark side of the mountain are almost black. There is no green.” “You see, tree leafs only appear green to us when certain light hits them. But with this dull light in the setting sun in the hour of the monkey, we get a chance to see through the illusion that leaves are green.”
She looked at me worried and puzzled and said, “You know, you really think too much!” She was disappointingly serious and I knew we’d be breaking up soon. What I had said was mild compared to how I talk when I know someone well. I then realized that we probably shared no En.
Note to friend: See, D, we both love the hour of the monkey! I thought of you tonight as I raked leaves and the sun set — how the connections equally fascinate you and of our EN. Good night. More tomorrow.
1. Japanese/Chinese classically divide the day into 12 two-hour sections named after the 12 animals representing the Chinese zodiac. The hour of the monkey is 3-5 pm and in the Fall in Kyoto, it is when the sun starts setting.
2. “GaiJin” means “foreigner” is Japanese, but with a derogatory connotation. GaiJin is (written 外人 ) literally means “Outside-Person” and is a short form for “Outside-Country-Person”. Japanese will deny that it has negative connotations except when they come to this country and you call them a GaiJin while speaking Japanese. Interestingly, like religions, Each country has their own particulary Goyology.